Politics White House Scrambles to Develop Plan for Americans' Return to Work

00:20  26 march  2020
00:20  26 march  2020 Source:   online.wsj.com

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After President Donald Trump made clear during Monday night's press briefing that he plans to lift his self-isolating guidelines soon, aides are scrambling for a compromise option that will avoid what health officials say would be a disaster: advising all Americans to return to normal life.

Returning to crowded gatherings or bustling offices would drastically increase the spread. The aim of whatever plan is chosen is to achieve Trump’s goal of getting the economy going while avoiding the health nightmare that practically every expert — inside and outside the White House — is warning of.

a man standing in front of a sign © Kholood Eid for The Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is scrambling to develop a plan for how Americans could return to work in a few weeks without exacerbating the spread of the new coronavirus in the U.S., even though the president’s authority over reopening the nation faces sharp limits.

White House advisers and public health experts are developing proposals that could include workplace testing of employees and intensified contact tracing to curb the spread of the infection, according to people familiar with the planning. Their goal is to release a proposal before Easter—April 12—the day President Trump has said he is eyeing for easing up on coronavirus restrictions to help revive the economy.

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There will be more time then to develop palliative treatments Rather than raising false expectations of a rapid and full return to business as usual, the president Federalism is integral to American government, but the administration needs to get serious about running a coordinated national response.

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Officials are also considering implementing more widespread and targeted testing in areas of the country where there are fewer cases. But it’s not clear the U.S. currently has the testing capacity to implement such measures. State and local health labs would need more federal help to establish specific reporting sites that act as sentinels to know how fast or far the virus is spreading.

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Mr. Trump on Tuesday said he hopes to have the country “opened up and just raring to go” by Easter—just under a month after the White House issued guidelines advising Americans to practice social distancing and avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more. Mr. Trump’s timeline is considerably shorter than what many health experts, including some in his own administration, have said will be necessary to blunt the spread of coronavirus.

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Construction of the White House began with the laying of the cornerstone on October 13, 1792, although Shortages, including material and labor, forced alterations to the earlier plan developed by French engineer By the time of the American Civil War, the White House had become overcrowded.

The White House issued guidance last week urging Americans to avoid large gatherings, to work from home and to maintain distance from one another for an initial 15-day period. Dr. Anthony Fauci, an infectious diseases expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force

Mr. Trump in a tweet Wednesday suggested he views the reopening of the economy in part through the lens of his re-election campaign, claiming the news media was pressuring him to keep the country closed in order to hurt his chances. “The real people want to get back to work ASAP,” he tweeted.

Even if Mr. Trump moves to relax those guidelines next month, his actions may have a limited effect. While the Trump administration has issued guidelines urging Americans to stay home, the most severe restrictions nationwide have come from governors, who have ordered nonessential businesses to close in at least 24 states and have imposed restrictions on those businesses in a dozen more. Nineteen states plan to or already require residents to stay home. Federal guidelines don’t trump state restrictions.

The result could be an even further decentralized patchwork of guidelines across the nation, which public-health experts say will make it harder to combat the virus’s spread. The U.S., because of its decentralized structure of government and health care systems, has faced greater hurdles than some Asian countries in implementing rigorous measures to test and quarantine citizens.

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The White House coronavirus task force, citing concern about the The city had already released 75 inmates but was working to identify inmates who shouldn’t be incarcerated during the Deborah Birx and Anthony S. Fauci, public health experts on the White House coronavirus task force, stressed that

“A patchwork approach is functionally a least-common-denominator approach, which is a huge problem,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, who led the U.S. government’s response to international disasters under the Obama administration. “In the absence of uniform standards and robust surveillance, we are vulnerable to governors taking risks in their states that end up endangering other states as well.”

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Mr. Trump has faced pressure from business leaders and some of his own advisers to reopen the economy soon, as uncertainty about the pandemic has sent the stock market reeling in recent weeks, and business closures have caused millions to lose their jobs. “We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem,” Mr. Trump said this week.

Health experts in the administration have urged more caution. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said it will be at least several weeks before the country can reopen and on Tuesday described the Easter timeline as “flexible.”

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Ms. Gilbert has worked at the Labor Department under presidents of both parties, and there has been no indication that she was urged by political appointees to make the request. But President Trump has privately expressed irritation at the dire predictions of some of his advisers, most notably when

Governors in both parties rejected the Easter timeline the president offered and said they planned to chart their own course. Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose state has been by far the hardest hit by the virus, stressed that the federal government was offering suggestions, not decrees. “They call them guidelines because they are guidelines,” he said at a briefing Wednesday. “We’ll come up with a plan that works for New York.”

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Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who last week ordered the state’s 40 million residents to stay at home except for essential activities, said it would be “misleading to represent” that California would reopen by Easter.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, tweeted that he was looking forward to the day when the economy could reopen, but “it’s not yet here.”

Some states have also imposed penalties for violating state guidelines aimed at slowing the virus’s spread. In Virginia, companies can lose operating licenses or face misdemeanor charges if they violate state guidelines. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, made it a misdemeanor to open or shop at certain retail businesses such as hair salons, gyms and fitness studios and theaters.

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Public health experts say it could take months, if not years, before life returns to normal. They say the U.S. is woefully behind on the type of widespread testing and quarantine measures adopted in Singapore and South Korea that were successful at reducing spread of the virus. They also say that reopening too soon could overwhelm U.S. hospitals, endanger health-care workers and fuel the virus’s spread in states where it isn’t prevalent now.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, warned in a briefing Wednesday that in the absence of necessary preparations, the virus could resurge once restrictions are eased. “The last thing any country needs is to open schools and businesses, only to be forced to close them again because of a resurgence,” he said.

Another question is the level of control the president can exert over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines. Mr. Trump has stressed that he will listen to advice from his administration’s health experts on when to reopen the economy, but that he will render the final decision on the timeline.

Ned Price, who was an adviser to former President Barack Obama, said that while Mr. Trump has authority over CDC guidelines, the agency has traditionally been granted a level of independence by previous presidents. That practice, however, is dictated “not by laws but by norms,” which Mr. Trump has made a habit of shattering, he said.

Americans around the country in recent days received a postcard from the federal government outlining the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing. The front of the postcard reads: “President Trump’s coronavirus guidelines for America.” His first piece of advice: “Listen and follow the directions of your STATE AND LOCAL AUTHORITIES.”

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com and Stephanie Armour at stephanie.armour@wsj.com

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